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THE  CONSTITUTION  OF  VENICE.                      59
older constitution, no feudalism and serfdom, little domina-
tion of the church. Everything grew out of commercial
industry, out of the spirit of free adventure, yet nowhere in
modern times has so close an aristocracy appeared. In
deserting the principles of freedom and tolerable equality on
which the foundations of the state were laid, the selfish mag-
I                                                O
nates of Venice seem to show a clear comprehension of the
dangers that threaten a commercial republic, from admitting
a roving and uncertain populace of sailors to a share in the
government ; but there was no calculation beforehand as to
the methods to be used to secure the power of the aristoc-
racy. Council after council appears, each taking part of the
affairs of an older one, so that there was no neatness about
the constitution,  no accurate division of powers. Still the
state of things at the time seems to have been apprehended
with wonderful wisdom, and one cannot help thinking that
more intelligence and practical sense was gathered here for
centuries than anywhere else in Europe.